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Carter Expands High-Tech Project While Shaking up Leadership

Secretary of Defense Carter shakes hands with Raj Shah as Maj. Gen. Nickolas Tooliatos, looks on, May 11, at the Sgt. James Witkowksi Armed Forces Reserve Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: DVIDS/Alun Thomas)
Secretary of Defense Carter shakes hands with Raj Shah as Maj. Gen. Nickolas Tooliatos, looks on, May 11, at the Sgt. James Witkowksi Armed Forces Reserve Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: DVIDS/Alun Thomas)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Wednesday the expansion of his outreach program to the commercial high-tech community while shaking up the leadership of the so-called Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx.

Taking a page from what he called the “Silicon Valley playbook,” Carter said he would be asking for $30 million more in funding to broaden the Pentagon’s pipeline to the high-tech community and open a second DIUx office in Boston in addition to the headquarters at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California, set up only eight months ago.

The Pentagon is also looking to establish a DIUx presence at other high-tech hubs such as Austin, Texas, officials said.

Carter also announced new leadership for the project.

George Douchak, the founding director of DIUx, and his military deputy, Navy Rear Adm. Daniel Hendrickson, were being transferred to other duties at the Pentagon that have yet to be defined. Carter thanked Douchak for “helping launch such a pathbreaking initiative.”

In their place will be a “partnership” team of high-tech executives led by Raj Shah, an F-16 pilot in the Air Force National Guard who most recently was the senior director of strategy at computer firewall maker Palo Alto Networks in Silicon Valley.

Another aspect of the DIUx partnership of leaders will be a military reserve unit that "can provide unique value in this field, given the fact that many of these patriots are tech industry leaders when they're not on duty for us," Carter said.

He appointed Navy Reserve Cmdr. Doug Beck, who also serves as Apple's vice president for the Americas and Northeast Asia, to head the new reserve team at DIUx.

Carter, who launched DIUx as a signature feature of his tenure at DoD, denied that the changes were a response to criticism from Capitol Hill and from Silicon Valley executives themselves about the DIUx program.

Corporate officials have complained about the slow pace of doing business with the federal government, while the House Armed Services Committee has complained about funding and expressed concerns that DiUx was duplicating the work of other Pentagon agencies, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Instead, Carter said the changes were a “sign of confidence” in DIUx, and “that is why I am taking such a continued strong personal interest in it.”

“I’m proud of what it’s done,” Carter said. “What it’s done is very valuable, and at the same time what it has taught us is that there are some ways that we can improve DIUx and the way the Department of Defense connects.”

“Since opening its doors eight months ago, DIUx has been a signature part of our outreach to the Valley,” Carter said. “And even better, it’s made progress in putting commercially-based innovation into the hands of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.”

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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